Saturday, August 17

Controlling the weed control fabric.

A comment from CJ after my post on using weed control fabric asked how we kept the fabric in place. As a reply in the comments would be far too long I promised a post about this - so here goes.

We really started using weed control fabric under our apple hedge and redcurrants as the grass grew very long here. Wasps also managed to build nests in underground holes under the redcurrants, one of which I managed to stand on when picking. The wasps reacted badly to the intrusion. Not good when you are trapped under netting and desperate not to drop the punnet of redcurrants which had taken so long to pick whilst angry wasps attack your foot. (Sorry I digress). 

Anyway in these instances the fabric was just covered with a thick mulch of bark chippings which are deposited on the site by the council parks department. The edges were held in place using 'prunings' from a coppiced hazel bush.
It was after this worked so well at keeping these areas tidy that we decide to experiment. At first our methods of keeping the fabric in place were fairly primitive and involved large pieces of wood and stones.
One problem was that we hadn't enough material to carry on doing this and also the wood and stones provide great hiding places for creatures that love to feast on newly planted vegetables.

Where there are only cross slits cut into the fabric we found that the fabric really only needs holding down around the edges and so we decided to bury the edges under either soil or a mulch.
The downside is that weeds tend to still grow around the edges of the bed but these are mainly young annuals growing in the soil on top of the fabric and are easily removed.

The courgettes were given an additional top mulch of manure which along with the black material we hoped would warm up the soil too.
The courgettes loved it and when the fabric is taken off after harvesting the manure will be incorporated into the soil.

The fabric into which slits are cut is a bit trickier. For the parsnips and carrots we held the fabric down using strips of plastic. This only needed to be a temporary arrangement as once the tops grew they would keep the fabric in place.
The onions posed a different problem but we had bought some pegs with one lot of fabric and we used these to hold down the edges of the 'trenches'. In the photo below they are the black squares on plastic. They are supposed to pierce the fabric but we used them along the edges. This worked well enough but we needed too many and it would prove a very expensive method.
So for the second lot of onions I improvised and constructed a sort of grid using bamboo canes held down under strips of wood.
This worked too but I felt I needed too many canes between the plants and they could interfere with plant growth.

For other crops such as peas which were also planted in a 'trench' we mulch the fabric to keep it in place - the idea was that this would also retain moisture.
The peas seemed to thrive in these conditions and we have far better plants than we have had for a while.

For 'trench set-ups' I now have a new idea to try. I have placed long canes on the strips of control fabric and held these in place using 'L ' shaped pieces of wire. The wire pushes into the soil with the bottom of the 'L' fitting over the top of the cane like this.
I've just planted out some flowers, sweet Williams, sweet rocket, wallflowers and dog daisies using this system.
I'm not sure how well these pieces of wire will hold the canes in place so we bought some tent pegs with rounded ends that slot over the canes more securely.
I planted out the rest of the flower plantlets using this system
I watered the 'trenches' first and then used a dibber to plant the young plants.

When we can acquire the autumn onion sets and garlic bulbs we will use the tent pegs to secure the fabric around them. The main problem is that the canes are not perfectly straight but so far I am happy with how this is working. Once the plants grow they also help secure the fabric.


18 comments:

  1. Great minds think alike, I was just going to suggest tent pegs. I think it's going to take trial and error, like you're doing, to work out what works best.

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    1. Great minds indeed Jo. I think we are gradually finding out what works best.

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  2. Excellent informative article, Sue, and lovely of you to share your experiments with the rest of us! Because I have raised beds, I find the soil too loose to hold tent pegs so I use cobble stones (bagged from Freecycle a few years ago) in the corners. So far, I've just used weed control fabric to keep the soil clean before planting after I've got the bed prepared for seedlings. Love the idea of planting in trenches and will give it a go next year with peas and courgettes. Brilliant!

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    1. The peas have done really well growing this way, Caro - the best we have had for quite a while which with the hot/dry conditions is quite surprising. The courgettes were just planted in cross slits.

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  3. That's a really great post Sue, loads of really useful ideas for me to try, thank you. I need to stop those weeds somehow, they've been dreadful this year. Standing on a wasps' nest sounds pretty hairy!

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    1. Treading on the hole to the wasps nest is definitely something I don't want to repeat CJ.

      We've found keeping the weeds under control in this way has left us time to carry our other plot jobs too which was the general aim.

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  4. I've only used weed control fabric on a couple of occasions but I found that old scaffold poles were good at holding it down. Down side id the longer they are the heavier they are. I f you can get the corner fittings it should be possible to construct squares, rectangles etc in varying sizes.

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    1. The problem there, Rooko is that there is either five of six 'trenches' in one piece of fabric so we would need lots of poles which would end up almost covering the bed. In the wind the edges of the rtrenches flap about if they are not held down.

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  5. We haven't tried Weed Control Fabric yet Sue. Can you recommend any particular one please ? Marion x

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    1. Make sure you buy the 100gms weight, Marion and not the flimsy stuff - it comes in various widths so your need whatever width is suitable for your beds

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    2. Thanks Sue. I will try some 100gms weight Weed Control next year. We have some of the flimsy stuff under the gravel in our driveway. It is disintergrating. Marion x

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  6. Good detail there Sue, and using the fabric has clearly really helped you stay weed free. Wouldn't just the tent pegs work OK, without the canes?

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    1. The trouble is that the 'trenches' need holding down along the full length, Janet as the wind gets under the edges and would whip out the pegs. If we just used the tent pegs we would need loads of them. Maybe in a more sheltered situation you could just use the pegs.

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  7. Wow, I think you've tried pretty much every method with the fabric Sue. It's fabulous that it's helped you stay weed free. I am going to be doing something similar next year as I've been over run with Horse tail this year, it's literally everywhere!
    Thanks for the detail Sue, most helpful :)

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    1. I would imagine it will be very good if you have Marestail Linda, keep hoeing it at the edges of the mulch every week (leave the tops to shrivel on the surface) It may be a bit of a nuisance where it finds it's way through the planting holes

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    2. We are not exactly weed free, Linda but it is vastly reduced and far easier to keep on top of.

      I am really glad we don't hvae marestail but we did once have Japanese knotweed on the site

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  8. I have to take my hat off to you and give you top marks for being so creative!xxxx

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    1. I like solving problems, Snowbird.

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